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VIDEO: Lenvatinib’s real-world thyroid cancer performance matches trial


Key clinical point: The thyroid cancer drug lenvatinib produced real-world response and toxicity rates similar to the rates seen in the drug’s pivotal trial.

Major finding: The median time of progression-free survival was 10 months in the registry and 18 months in the pivotal trial.

Data source: A retrospective review of the first 75 French patients with advanced differentiated thyroid cancer who received lenvatinib following its marketing approval.

Disclosures: Dr. Schlumberger has received research funding from Eisai, the company that markets lenvatinib (Lenvima). He has also received research support and honoraria from AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Excelixis.

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Lenvatinib remains the top thyroid cancer drug


Because of its efficacy lenvatinib is absolutely the top thymidine kinase inhibitor to use today to treat patients with radio-iodine-resistant, progressive, differentiated thyroid cancer. Although comparing drugs across trials is unreliable, the activity of lenvatinib in the SELECT trial (N Engl J Med. 2015 Feb 12;372[7]:621-30) was better than the activity of sorafenib in the DECISION trial (Lancet. 2014 July 26;384[9940]:319-28). There was enough of a difference between lenvatinib and sorafenib in the SELECT and DECISION trials to convince me that lenvatinib is the better drug.

Many of the patients enrolled in the French registry would not have qualified to enter the SELECT trial, so I’m not surprised that there was a lower response rate in the registry. We know that lenvatinib works better when the tumor burden is low, and some of the registry patients had a high tumor burden. In addition, a fraction of the registry patients did not receive a dosage of 24 mg/day, and data from the SELECT trial suggests that dosage size matters. The full dosage of 24 mg/day should be used as the starting dosage for lenvatinib, but that isn’t always possible for elderly patients or those with comorbidities.

Dr. Lori J. Wirth, medical director of the Center for Head and Neck Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Mitchel L. Zoler/Frontline Medical News
Dr. Lori J. Wirth
We already know that adverse effects are common in patients who receive lenvatinib. The treating physician needs to be all over blood pressure management. They must be sure that the patient’s blood pressure is well controlled prior to starting on the drug, and patients on the drug need ongoing blood pressure monitoring. When needed, antihypertensive treatment needs to start early and aggressively in patients who get this drug. Early, aggressive blood pressure management can avoid development of grade 3 hypertension or worse in these patients. When a patient’s blood pressure rises to high levels on lenvatinib, withholding the drug for a few days often normalizes pressure and makes patients feel better.

A rise in blood pressure with lenvatinib treatment is not a completely bad outcome, because our experience with lenvatinib shows that this adverse effect actually links with a survival benefit. A spike in a patient’s blood pressure in response to lenvatinib is a sign that the drug is working and the patient will have a good treatment response, an association that we’ve seen with other tumor types and with other thymidine kinase inhibitors.

Unfortunately, a good response to lenvatinib is usually not enough in the long run. Experience shows that even when advanced thyroid cancer responds to lenvatinib or to another thymidine kinase inhibitor, eventually the disease will progress despite this treatment.

Lori J. Wirth, MD , is medical director of the Center for Head and Neck Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She has been a consultant to Eisai, Blueprint Medicines, Loxo, and Merck. She made these comments in an interview.


AT WCTC 2017


– Lenvatinib’s real-world performance treating advanced, radio-iodine refractory, differentiated thyroid cancer closely followed the efficacy and adverse effect profiles the drug showed in its pivotal trial.

Lenvatinib showed good efficacy in 75 French registry patients, while also producing adverse effects in virtually every patient, but with the possibility to resolve the adverse effects with dose reductions or short-term treatment discontinuations, Martin Schlumberger, MD, said at the World Congress on Thyroid Cancer.

“Lenvatinib is toxic, but the toxicity can be managed in almost all patients by drug withholding or by reducing the dosage, and with symptomatic treatments,” Dr. Schlumberger said in a video interview. But adverse events are a “major problem” for the drug, so patients receiving lenvatinib “should be seen very frequently, and as soon as toxicity appears it should be treated,” said Dr. Schlumberger, professor of medicine and chairman of nuclear medicine and endocrine oncology at Gustave Roussy in Paris.

But lenvatinib’s efficacy makes it a first-line option despite the frequent adverse effects it causes.

“Without doubt it is the most effective drug” for treating advanced, rapidly progressing, radio-iodine refractory thyroid cancer, he said. “When patients really need systemic therapy they should get lenvatinib. It’s a balance of risk and benefit, and the risk from not being treated is higher than the risk from adverse effects.”

A similar pattern of adverse effects and efficacy was seen for lenvatinib in the pivotal Study of Lenvatinib in Differentiated Cancer of the Thyroid (SELECT) trial, which reported a median 18-month progression-free survival rate among patients treated with the drug compared with a median 4-month progression-free survival rate in placebo-treated patients (N Engl J Med. 2015 Feb 12;372[7]:621-30).

Among the 75 patients enrolled in the French registry, the median time of progression-free survival was 10 months, with 8 patients on continued therapy without progression. The response rate in the registry was 31% compared with 65% in the SELECT trial (and 2% in placebo-treated patients in SELECT), but the registry included many patients with advanced disease, comorbidities, and pretreatment, Dr. Schlumberger reported. Just 17 of the registry patients (23%) would have met the enrollment criteria for SELECT. Among this subset the response rate to lenvatinib was 47%.

A multivariate analysis identified three factors that significantly linked with drug responses, Dr. Schlumberger said: pretreatment, more advanced disease, and comorbidities.

Treatment-related adverse effects occurred in 71 of the registry patients (95%), with half of these grade 3 or higher. Twelve patients (16%) discontinued treatment because of an adverse effect. Hypertension was the most common adverse effect, occurring in 50 patients (67%), with 26 having grade 3 or higher hypertension. Other common adverse effects were fatigue, weight loss, diarrhea, and anorexia.

The 75 patients began treatment with lenvatinib for advanced thyroid cancer at any of 24 French centers during April 2015–June 2016. This marked the first year when lenvatinib was available in France for routine use, which roughly coincided with its U.S. introduction after lenvatinib received Food and Drug Administration marketing approval for advanced thyroid cancer in February 2015. Fifty-four patients (72%) began treatment on the labeled dosage of 24 mg/day; the remaining patients started the drug at a lower dosage.

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